Remembering Papa Wemba

Real World Records was devastated to hear of the untimely death of Papa Wemba. He was one of the greatest vocalists we have worked with - not just from Africa but the world. It was an honour to have been involved in his illustrious career.

The release of Emotion was a real turning point for Papa Wemba and one of his most important albums. As an artist he was quiet and enigmatic but ready to embrace change; challenge the foundations of his music and seek new territories and new audiences.

Working with producer Stephen Hague and Lokua Kanza alongside Papa Wemba’s fantastic band at Real World Studios was one of the most exciting sessions in the label’s history. On many occasions Papa Wemba was a headline star at WOMAD Festivals internationally. He is a great loss to the music world but will always be part of the DNA of Real World Records.

I had the great pleasure of working with Papa on his 'Emotion' album in 1995. I only knew of him as a singer when we started the project, but through a number of sessions at Real World, and studios in London and Paris, I got to know him as a man, and experience first hand his integrity, grace and humour. Always kind to those around him, but with just enough edge to remind you why he was the Papa, he was a true gentleman and a consummate musician. And man, could he sing! He died on-stage… an artist to the last breath. Bonne soirée Monsieur Wemba… good luck at your next stop." Stephen Hague, producer of Emotion

“I’m saddened to hear the news of Papa Wemba’s passing and my heart goes out to his family and friends. He is a giant of African music and I’m honoured and blessed to have worked with him on the album ‘Molokai’ and have nothing other than happy memories of our time together in the studio. He had a truly unique voice and always inspired great things from his musicians and the people around him. His music will be there forever and give joy to all people.”
– John Leckie, producer of Molokai

  • Emotion

    Papa Wemba

    Released 13 March 1995

    Fresh and daring as ever, this world-class singer continues his ascendancy to global notoriety with total emotional impact. A brilliant blast of pop and dance rhythms make up the brightest, most accessible album of Papa Wemba’s career.
  • Molokai

    Papa Wemba

    Released 31 May 1998

    Named in honour of his band, Molokai is a live studio performance from one of Africa's greatest stars. The album collects classic hits and newer songs from the late 90s by Papa Wemba and is produced by John Leckie.
  • Le Voyageur

    Papa Wemba

    Released 12 April 1992

    The high-pitched, melancholy tone of Wemba's singing style is reminiscent of his rural beginnings and of his mother, who sang traditional mourning songs for the deceased. This album is a synthesis of true Zaïrean feeling, with sounds and structures that are immediately accessible to the Western ear - the mark of a truly mature musician.

By Online Editor

Published on Mon, 25 April 16

Further reading

Announcing Live at WOMAD 1982: a double album of unheard recordings from the historic first WOMAD festival

The double live album will be released on 29 July to coincide with WOMAD Charlton Park 2022.

Winner of Badd Lime & Ami Yèrèwolo’s ‘Niafiyé’ remix contest revealed

The contest was run in partnership with pro-audio software companies Native Instruments and iZotope.

Africa comes to Real World: revisiting albums by six legendary artists

Jane Cornwell explores our new reissue series 'Africa Sessions at Real World'.

Track of the day: ‘Steal’ by Bob Holroyd. Remixed by Luca Bacchetti

Originally released as part of the Mangled Pianos single last summer, ‘Steal’ has been reworked...